Part One in this series of blogs on how to choose your new camera looked at whether a DSLR, a point and shoot or a mirrorless camera is for you. Now you’ve got that bit sorted, this second part goes on to consider some of the features you might want to think about when deciding which model to go for. 

As before, It’s worth remembering there is no single factor which means one camera is better than another. Everyone has different priorities, and the best camera for one person may not be right for another. It’s difficult to buy a genuinely bad camera today, but it still pays to do some research to make sure you are still satisfied with your choice in a couple of years’ time. And there is no substitute for going into a shop and having a play with different cameras, and finding out which one feels right to you. 

Factors to Consider

Manual controls

This for me is the one feature that is a must for anyone who wants to learn how to use their camera properly. Even if you don’t plan to use manual mode for the majority of your shooting, having it available to you is really beneficial in learning how to take control of your images. Almost all DSLRs and all mirrorless cameras have manual mode, but the same cannot be said for point and shoot cameras, and this is definitely something to check out before making your purchase. 

RAW mode

Shooting in RAW may mean nothing to you at this time, and that’s absolutely fine. RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. They give you more flexibility if you want to process your images on the computer, and shooting RAW means you can make changes to your images in post-processing without affecting the image quality. If you want to use Lightroom or Photoshop with your images, or think you might want to in the future, then look for a camera that allows you to shoot in RAW. 

Autofocus

Autofocus (AF) points are what a camera uses to focus on a subject. In general higher end cameras have better autofocus systems than entry level cameras, and newer cameras improve upon older models. Autofocus works differently in different types of camera, with mirrorless cameras and DSLRs in live view mode using contrast detection, and DSLRs using phase detection. More AF points can be an advantage if you choose to focus your toggle point when taking a photo, this is much less important if you use the focus and recompose technique. 

The more AF points allow more flexibility about where you set your focus in an image and means there is less risk of you losing focus lock while tracking a moving object. But it’s not all about the number of AF points. In DSLRs it’s also about the quality of the AF point. Cross type focussing sensors are superior, allowing faster and more accurate focussing. In higher end cameras all the AF points will be cross type, however in entry level cameras it may just be the centre point that is cross type. 

Viewfinder

Unlike when taking photos with your phone, you may be used to holding your camera up-to your eye when taking a photo. Viewfinders are useful shooting on sunny days when you can’t always see the LCD. Whether or not you are want a viewfinder is a personal preference, but check it out before you choose your camera.  

Screen

There are a couple of things to think about here. Some camera screens are touchscreen, some people love it, some hate it and find they are accidentally changing their settings with their nose. Have a think about whether this is important to you. 

Some cameras have screens that you can move away from the camera. If you’re going to be taking a lot of photos from different angles, such as floor level or shooting direct downwards. A moveable screen lets you frame your image even when you can’t get your eye to the camera. 

Brand

The camera brand you choose is important, but probably not in the way you think. You should choose a camera based on its features, not its brand. Brand is important in that it affect the range of lenses and accessories that will work with the camera. Nikon and Canon are both well established brands, with plenty of lenses to choose from. The smaller brands are catching up rapidly, but if for example you want to do a lot of wildlife photography, check that there is a decent telephoto lens compatible with the camera. 

Resolution

Camera resolution, or the number of megapixels, is one factor which affects the size you can print your images and how much you can crop an image without losing too much quality. A few years ago this number was important when choosing a camera, but with even phone cameras now having a huge number of megapixels, it becoming less and less important. Unless you are a professional, or understand the components that affect image quality it is unlikely that resolution should be a key consideration when you are choosing a camera. 

Making the Decision

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Once you’ve done some research about the features you might want and some cameras that might be of interest, the best way to decide on your new camera is to go into a store and try them out. Check how the camera feels in your hand, and how easy it is (or isn’t) to access different settings. 

Conclusion

There are many variables to consider when it comes to choosing a new camera. The most important thing is to pick a camera that you enjoy using, that feels comfortable in your hands and you like how it works. If a camera doesn’t fit with you, more likely than not you will choose not to use it. 

Don’t get caught in the trap of feeling you have to have the ‘best’ or newest camera, and don’t feel you have to spend an exorbitant amount to get started taking great photos. Buying a camera is tricky largely because there are so many great cameras available. This is a good problem to have. 

Learning the factors you need to consider when choosing a camera is a great first step to learning how to use the camera, and how to take great photographs. And the best way to learn this? One of our photography courses in Berkhamsted of course 🙂 Click here to find out more.